THE LYTTELTON HART-DAVID LETTERS: Vol. V & VI by George Lyttelton

THE LYTTELTON HART-DAVID LETTERS: Vol. V & VI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The final, endearing, volumes of the collected letters (Vol. III, 1986) of British publisher Rupert Hart-Davis and George Lyttelton, Hart-Davis' former Eton schoolmaster. The present installments pick up the correspondence in 1960, when Lyttelton was 76, Hart-Davis 25 years younger. As in the earlier volumes, the two men exchange literary chitchat, commiserate with each another about their workloads (Hart-Davis is editing his magnum opus, the Letters of Oscar Wilde; Lyttelton is constantly busy correcting exam papers) and keep each another posted on the weather. There's also a good deal of talk about cricket. Meanwhile, one of the few matters about which the friends disagree is the publication of the unexpurgated Lady Chatterley's Lover. Lyttelton admits he may be something of a Victorian ""fuddy-duddy,"" but he's appalled when Hart-Davis testifies in favor of publication. The friendship continues nonetheless. Scattered throughout the letters are many memorable lines, as when Lyttelton describes Cyril Connolly's face as ""all chin, conceit, and virosity. Dreadful!"" The older man, fuddy-duddy or no, has, in fact, by far the livelier style: about aging British actress Edith Evans, he writes: ""She is plainer now than Dame Edith Sitwell and one can't say more than that."" Both men also suffer a series of illnesses but persist in maintaining the weekly exchange of letters until, sadly, Lyttelton is stricken with cancer and dies. Volume VI ends on a elegiac note with the publication of the letter Hart-Davis sent to a group of Etonians celebrating Lyttelton's 100th birthday anniversary in 1983--a letter in which he reiterates his ""unending admiration, gratitude and love."" A touching and often amusing souvenir of a remarkable friendship.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Academy Chicago